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The tragedy of Bwaise floods, why they have become persistent and what needs to be done

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Despite the interventions from different stakeholders towards finding an everlasting solution, floods have remained a big threat to both the lives and livelihoods of people within and around Bwaise and Kyebando. Most of Bwaise residents scramble to cross the road by a meticulously makeshift wooden bridges planted over large stinking pools of water, some just walk in dirty flooded water to access their premises. The ram-shackled housing units and businesses around Bwaise always fall prey where they are swept away or covered up.

Roads and bridges are washed away during a heavy downpour making movement a nightmare for students and other slum dwellers. This has also led to drowning of children and the elderly, displacement of households and easy spread of diseases due to poor sanitation since human waste from pit latrines and other waste is always carried around from waste collection areas by storm water. For stance, according to Uganda Red Cross, in 2011 over 700 residents were left homeless as a result of heavy down power that turned into floods in the areas of Bwaise.

However much KCCA has put guidelines to deal with and contain the situation, the citizens have adamantly refused to take up the measures by continuing to dump waste into drainage channels which blocks drainage system and let water flow on the highways, households and businesses.

Maurice Semukemba, who once worked with KCCA argues that the biggest cause of flooding in the area are the clogged channels and that the residents are to blame. Bwaise, which slightly lies above the drainage channel of the Northern bypass, has always been an area prone to flooding. The main drainages are so narrow and at times are overpowered by the heavy run-off waters. Human activities like dumping waste such as plastics and polythene bags into drainages and constructing buildings within water passages among others blocks water movement which triggers backflow of water. There is encroachment on wetlands which are supposed to be catchment areas. Currently, many factories and houses have been built in wetlands despite the existing law, yet the local authorities at times just look on since some developers wield much influence to the big people in government. Since Bwaise is a slum, there are many informal settlement that have no approved building plans. This has caused unplanned buildings and failure to follow building regulation leading to congested settlements leaving no space for storm water drainage hence flooding.

At the Centre for Energy Governance we are convinced that, in order to curb the problem of flooding and its effects on Bwaise, the following measures need to be taken with immediate effect.

  • Drainage channels need to be widened, deepened and provided with small drainages to help ease the flow.
  • The leaders should mobilize and encourage people living in Bwaise in making sure that, they don’t dump waste in places not gazetted for waste disposal and also sensitize them to take part in cleaning all places that block water flow.
  • The local authorities should frequently collect waste, set up public garbage collection points, so that when it rains, there isn’t waste to block water flow.
  • The local authorities should also establish good stormwater management systems, which should focus on preserving critical green spaces hence protecting the wetlands from encroachment and fostering plans that aim to harvest rainwater.
  • New building laws should be in acted forcing developers to leave some portions of their land unpaved so that water can be absorbed without necessarily flowing.
  • Vertical construction (storeyed buildings) and have more space for proper road network, drainage channels and green areas.
  • Unplanned settlements and informal business should be stopped since they encourage encroachment on wetlands and yet do not earn any income to the government.
  • Fines and penalties should be established to punish people who dump rubbish in the drainage channels.
  • Studies should be made for updating of drainage master plan for Bwaise to improve mobility and reduce flooding.
  • Political leaders, government and Bwaise dwellers should each perform their role to ensure the eradication of floods from Bwaise and make it a better place to live with proper drainage systems, housing and waste management to enhance growth and development.


Ansasira Mascot,

Research Fellow, Centre for Energy Governance.




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